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Sat., Dec. 27
Serving the communities of Jefferson, St. Lawrence and Lewis counties, New York
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Taxing his credibility

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Hmmm, there’s something about mid-November that compels elected officials to start pandering to current and former members of the military.

Last week, New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneider man said he has introduced a plan to be considered by the State Legislature to offer active-duty personnel reductions in what they would pay in property taxes if they purchased homes. Under the proposed measure, active-duty personnel would be granted a 10 percent exemption on property taxes, capped at $10,000. Those who have served in combat zones would be granted an additional 10 percent, this one capped at $8,000.

And now Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has devised a plan of his own to make himself look good in the eyes of military families. On Monday — which just so happened to be Veterans Day — Gov. Cuomo announced a new initiative by the New York State Division of Veterans Affairs to provide about $75 million in tax relief to employers who hire post-9/11 veterans.

The plan will offer a tax credit equal to 10 percent of the total wages paid to a newly hired veteran during the individual’s first year of employment. This amount would be capped at $5,000. The tax credit increases to 15 percent of the veteran’s total wages if the person is disabled, with a cap of $15,000.

The tax credit plan will go into effect Jan.1.

On the surface, this sounds like a wonderful way to get unemployed veterans back to work. According to the news release issued by Gov. Cuomo’s office Monday, the unemployment rate for post-9/11 veterans is 10 percent; this increases to 10.5 percent for those post-9/11 veterans who are younger than 25.

But these rates are for unemployed post-9/11 veterans throughout the nation. The news release conveniently failed to disclose what these figures are for post-9/11 veterans living in New York State.

And the devil of the plan is in the details. Here are a few stipulations:

The company must employ the veteran for at least 35 hours a week, leaving out firms that have part-time work to offer. In addition, the veteran must not have worked 35 hours or more per week for the preceding 180 days.

Companies would be denied the tax credit if they hired a post-9/11 veteran to replace another employee. These are bureaucratic measures that many firms may find burdensome, making the program not worth their while.

Lastly, the tax credit is limited to hiring post-9/11 veterans. What about older veterans who need work?

Granted, their rate of unemployment is lower than that for post-9/11 veterans, according to the Council of Economic Advisers. But there are bound to be many veterans from prior service periods who could use the work.

This idea smacks of a way for Gov. Cuomo to score points with veterans and ensure the program isn’t widely used by many companies. What’s really needed to get more people back to work is fundamental tax reform with rates that make the Empire State more competitive. When this happens, we’ll be happy to salute.

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